CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. -- A private liberal arts college in western Indiana is ending its 187-year-old tradition of printing diplomas on sheepskin, citing increasing prices for the material and deteriorating quality.
The announcement by Wabash College in Crawfordsville leaves only Virginia Military Institute in offering the specialty diplomas. Wabash College President Gregory Hess told students Tuesday about the decision, moving up the date after the Indianapolis Star reported about the expected change.
Administrators said the decision was made in April because the quality of sheepskin diplomas was worsening while the prices were increasing.
"But as we consider all of our priorities, which are always focused on the education of our students," Hess said, "we cannot in good conscience continue to chase after questionable quality sheepskin diplomas at very high prices."
But some Wabash students said officials didn't do a good job communicating the reasons for the change.
"(Hess) said he's made the decision based on quality, based on what students would want to have for their children and grandchildren, to have something they're proud of when they graduate," said Kevin Ballard-Munn, a Wabash student newspaper's managing editor. "But students were never consulted."
Dayem Adnan, Wabash's student body president, said that students, including himself, have been looking forward to their sheepskins. He added he is disappointed and wished the change "would have been better communicated."
Wabash students pay $43,870 annually in tuition, with an extra $14,700 spent on housing, fees and projected books and personal costs. About 99% of students get some amount of financial assistance.
Roarke Tollar, a graduating senior, said he's worried the school's decision to discontinue using the specialty diplomas presents a "slippery slope" as it pertains to what the administration is willing to eliminate.
"Our school is very deliberate about traditions," Tollar said, "and those things matter."
James Amidon, Wabash College's director of Strategic Communications, said the college will look for museum quality, archival grade paper, though is not yet clear how much that will cost.